ULSTER GP: Juggling act to keep everyone happy, says race chief Noel Johnston
MCE Ulster Grand Prix Clerk of the Course Noel Johnston says he faced a juggling act due to the poor weather conditions at Dundrod on Thursday.
A delay of more than three hours ensued in the morning as a result of heavy mist, with the UGP Superstock practice session finally getting away at around 1.20pm.
The Superbike and Supersport practice sessions were also run, although Johnston made the call to drop the Superpole qualifier for the top 10 fastest Superbike riders, which is now planned to take place on Saturday.
Most of the Dundrod 150 race schedule was completed, although the Supertwins race was dropped while the feature Superbike event was declared a result based on positions after two laps following a red-flag incident involving Stephen McKnight, who fortunately escaped serious injury.
Johnston said: “I didn’t know what sort of window we were going to get on Thursday and if the fog had come in again, it would have beaten us.
“I had qualifying to think about and guys who wanted to get out there and race. Some people are quick to dismiss the Dundrod 150 races but many of those guys who are out there represent our up and coming riders – they are the ones who will come through in a few years’ time.
“I want to try and make sure that everyone gets a race and a lot of those riders who were in the National and Challenge races on Thursday won’t be racing on Saturday,” he added.
“There was so much excitement amongst the newcomers and a great buzz and that is what it’s all about. I ran the Challenge race on Thursday afternoon and we had to drop the Dundrod 150 Supertwins race, but there’s another Supertwins race tomorrow and a lot of those guys are out in the other classes too.
“It was also vital to get as many qualifying sessions run for Saturday’s races and thankfully we go those run as scheduled on Thursday.”
It had been planned to restart the Dundrod 150 Superbike race but fading light left Johnston with no choice other than to call it a night.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to re-run the Dundrod 150 Superbike race on Thursday, so we were able to take a result based on the completion of those two laps,” he said.
“I was talking to Bruce Anstey and he said the track was in perfect condition, but the light was just fading so badly and we had no choice in the circumstances. Thirteen or more riders had completed the two laps in the Superbike race, so we called a result,” he added.
“Stephen McKnight crashed but was up and on his feet. The problem was that his bike was in the road plus other bits and pieces of debris, so that’s why it was red-flagged.”
As well as McKnight, Aussie David Johnson crashed on Wilson Craig’s Honda Superstock machine at Quarterlands and sustained injuries including a broken knee, shoulder and ribs and a collapsed lung.
Southern Irish rider John Walsh came off at Flow Bog and suffered a broken arm, while Magherafelt’s Paul Jordan was off at Quarterlands in the Ultra-Lightweight race but escaped unhurt.